Health Care Reform as Investment/Stimulus

Health care reform seems to me like it ought to be a major priority in an economic downturn, since it’s one of the major inefficiencies sapping the economy of vigor. Not doing so is an example of “eating your seed corn,” in that because you feel like you can’t afford to invest in something important, you end up prolonging really bad policies that eat up funds that always seem to add up to the same amount you lacked to finance the reform. The federal government is not like me — when I’m poor I can’t afford the economy size because I have no mechanisms for borrowing money. But the US government can always afford it, and should never avoid a good long-term economic investment on the grounds that it will cost to much in the short run.

And maybe health-care reform will pay off sooner than we think.

Just imagine where we’d be as a competitive world economy if Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan (or something like it) had passed 17 years ago.


Health Care vs. Insurance

I don’t remember which candidate it was in the New Hampshire debate (Dennis Kucinich?) who pointed out that in the discussion of health care, all the candidates were talking about insurance instead of health care itself, as though the two are synonymous. In the South Carolina debate, this became even more obvious — everyone was talking about providing insurance to everyone, and many talked about controlling the cost of prescription drugs. But no one was talking about the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the insurance companies (and their lobbyists), whose lap dog, Lieberman, was right there on stage. Kucinich made the point that a single-payer plan would take the profit making out of the payment system, which is an indirect way of addressing the problem. But he didn’t draw out the conclusion that part of the profits were going to the insurance companies. The candidates were quite ready to jump on the pharmaceutical companies for taking too much profit and call for government price negotiation, but they didn’t take the further step of applying that principle to the insurance companies.

If you’re going to make health care cheaper so that everyone can afford it, you’ve got to do two things: 1. lower costs and, well, 2. lower costs. Talking about extending insurance programs simply doesn’t address the core problem in the system, uneven distribution because of high costs.

I wish one of the candidates would take this up in a much clearer manner than Kucinich or Sharpton have done.